It is no secret that here at FAB we are huge fans of prints, so we were delighted to discover the debut Kenema collection titled “Interlude” – a unisex collection of printastic streetwear, inspired by a love of 90s hip-hop and RnB and a celebration of the cultural foundations rooted by the music of the decade. Mainly comprised of a shirt and trouser set, bomber jacket, and t-shirts, the collection defies gender-specific clothing to create unisex ‘shareable’ looks – beware, boys as this adds new possiblities to “boyfriend” trend.
Shirts (£95) and trousers (£105) offer easy to wear undiluted African prints and a bold dash of colour perfect to brighten up your winter wardrobe. While oversized shirts in bold prints worthy of late Nelson Mandela’s shirt collection are reminiscent of a silhouette synonymous with ’90s UK clubland, trousers showcase modern tailoring and a contemporary fitted shape.
The reversible bomber jacket (£175) is perfect to switch seamlessly between day and night. Choose between a black and grey geometric Ase Oke fabric from Nigeria, or black and white hand woven Country Cloth from Sierra Leone, fused with neoprene arms on one side or a dazzling African print in wax cotton; a truly inventive juxtaposition of fabrics.
The Country Cloth is produced in a rural area of Sierra Leone by Martha Kenneh, who weaves the cloth using a hand loom, making it a real heritage fabric with this method having been used for generations. The cotton comes straight from the cotton trees which is then hand spun and dyed accordingly.
T-shirts (£30) feature a play on the wax cotton fabric with the brand name subtly hidden amongst the pattern. From every t-shirt and sweatshirt sold that uses the Kenema print, 25% of profits will be donated to the Innovate Salone textiles project in Kenema where young people are given the resources that enable them to produce dye for batik and tie dye design, all from local natural resources.
“With Interlude I’m exploring the androgynous aesthetic prevalent in a lot of 90s fashion,” says Kenema founder Tamu Thomas.
Bright, bold and resilient, Kenema is an emerging label birthed from the cultures, landscapes and sounds of the third largest city in Sierra Leone eponymous with the brand, transmitting a contemporary narrative of a versatile continent on the rise.
Kenema was launched in 2010 by Tamu, a former social worker focusing on troubled families, children and young people. “It went from receiving a dress from Sierra Leone as a present to discussions about importing them, to me sitting down and thinking there must be a way to use these fabrics in everyday garments that will appeal to a global audience, to me actually designing and producing an entire collection,” she explains.
Tamu is passionate about supporting local businesses in Sierra Leone and across Africa, directly impacting them and empowering communities. The label works with entrepreneurs and artisans to provide products, goods and services in exchange for fair pay. The country cloth is made from locally grown cotton, hand carded and spun into thread, and woven into strips on traditional looms. The strips are then sewn together edge to edge to form the finished cloth.
“We want to open pathways so the ethical background of the label is discovered,” says Tamu, mindful that awareness of these global issues is key, but savvy enough to understand people don’t want to be force fed moral viewpoints.
The city of Kenema which inspires the brand name was just one of many ravaged by the civil war which raged from 1991 until 2002. “The citizens of Kenema carry themselves with such courage and resilience,” says Tamu. “I want my brand to represent that beauty, strength and tenacity in all of the people.”